It was the eleventhand the most important meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli visitor heard clearly from his host that Moscow has no leverage to ask Iran to leave or to stop the flow of weapons to Damascus and that Iran will remain in Syria and that Russia has no say over the Syrian-Iranian relationship. Moscow informed Tel Aviv about “Damascus’s determination to respond to any future bombing and that Russia doesn’t see itself concerned”.
According to well-informed sources in Damascus, “the few hours of the visitof President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran were enough to send messages in all directions. The first message was the fact that the visit took place just before Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting with Putin. The second message was to display the robust cemented relationship between Iran and Syria, immune from any outside interference from the US or Russia and that Syria has the sovereign right to choose its strategic partners. The secretive nature of the visit – not even Russia was informed in advance – speaks volumes about the Syrian-Iranian relationship”.
“Russia exerted pressure on President Obama to prevent the US from bombing Damascus on the false flag pretext of chemical weapons and set up its military apparatus in Syria in 2015. Russia helped Syria to victory, imposed a political dialogue, and protected Syria in the international arena, speeding up the return of refugees (the US wanted to use the refugees in a failed attempt to gain concessions that it could not obtain by war). Moreover, Russia is putting pressure on many countries to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria and to resume diplomatic relations with Damascus. Russia is a strategic ally but exerts no power of control over the central government”, said the source.
The strategic relationship between Tehran and Damascus started – under the “Axis of the Resistance” – long before the war. In 2011, Iran rushed to support the central government to prevent the US-EU-Arab “regime-change” plan. It thwarted the transformation of Syria into Islamic Emirates ruled by Takfiri jihadists. Tehran offered oil, financial and military support to Syria throughout its seven years of war and rejected any proposition, even by Russia, to change President Assad for any other Syrian personality, as repeatedly proposed by the US.
Russia enjoys an excellent relationship with Israel and intend to maintain that relationship. Iran, on the other hand, is ready to wage war against Israel if Netanyahu ever decides to bomb significant strategic objectives in Syria. The head of Iran’s National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, saidIran will respond by hitting Israeli targets if Israel bombs Syria. The same warning was delivered by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, who recently warned that his country will retaliateif Damascus is bombed.
Since these last warnings, Israel has refrained from violating Syria sovereignty (except for one insignificant artillery bombing against an empty position in south Syria). Iranian officials in Syria had a curt response to their Russian counterparts who asked to have details on the locations of their military deployment in Syria. Iranians told the Russian military to inform Israel that the Iranian positions have been integrated with those of the Syrian army all over Syrian territory, and that any bombing of the Syrian army will hit Iranian advisors.
Iran in effect asked Russia to inform Israel that any future Israeli attack will trigger a retaliatory response, since the presence of Iranian advisors in the Levant is at the official request of the Syrian government. It is legitimate for all allied forces, if under attack, to respond with the similar firepower against any future aggression.
Netanyahu seems willing to bomb Syria. Nevertheless, if Iran and Syria stand by their promised response, he will not be able to stop the precision missiles ready to be launched against Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister is not aiming to dislodge Iran from Syria, an objective he knows to be impossible. Neither can he aspire to destroy Syria’s military capacity because Russia continues to supply Damascus with highly sophisticated weapons. His only plausible objective is an electoral one, with the goal of escaping imminent indictment for bribery charges related to corruption. A second term may postpone his indictment and prolong his immunity.
However, if the Israeli Prime Minister decides to bomb Syria, his decision will have a boomerang effect, especially if Syrian missiles hit deadly targets in the heart of Israel. Will Netanyahu take the risk and bomb his political future? It is his decision.